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A brave woman and her struggle against the omnipresent violence in a township outside of Cape Town
Ndumie Funda lives with her girlfriend Thembie in a 10m2 shack in Nyanga. Askew, the construction stands in the front yard of a tiny house where two families live. The path to the only toilet, in the back yard, leads through the living room.
Inside the shack everything is tidy and surprisingly cosy. The bed takes up half of the room, large enough for the two stocky women who sleep there. A computer screen flickers in one corner, there is also a television and a refrigerator with small freezer compartment. A gospel music CD is spinning in a small boom box. The couch pulls out into a bed. Here is where Ndumie offers an overnight stay and protection to lesbians who feel threatened.
The situation and need is dire. In 2005 the first of Ndumie’s acquaintances, Luleka Makiwane, died of complications caused by HIV, the virus that causes Aids. She had been infected during a rape, a mass orgy of violence that in South Africa is known as ‘corrective rape’. Men rape lesbians in order to ‘switch them’ to heterosexuality. The majority of women and girls do not survive the attack or die years later of its consequences. The murder of gays and lesbians is part of everyday life in the townships in South Africa. Alone in Guguletu over the past five years there have been eight deaths: raped, shot, stabbed. The survivors normally keep quiet out of fear that they might be next.
Luleka did not remain the last loss in Ndumie’s life. The death of her great love Nomsa just before Christmas in 2007 made Ndumie aware that something had to be done. Five years earlier it was Nomsa’s best girlfriend from school of all people who gave a group of young men the tip that young girls had to be brought back onto the path of heterosexuality through rape. Five assailants attack her at twilight, for hours, a knife to her throat. Nothing unusual – according to a survey one of every three black male juveniles in South Africa counts ‘gang rape’ as one of his favourite leisure-time activities.
The young girl, who was still a virgin at the time of the attack, remained silent for years because of shame. She also didn’t initially tell Ndumie, her first great love. It wasn’t until Ndumie felt infected wounds in Nomsa’s vagina during sex that she discovered the full extent of the tragedy. What followed was a physical and psychological nightmare. A positive HIV test, five operations. The two women separated, their relationship crushed by the psychic weight. Nomsa, already suffering under severe depression at that moment, refused any further treatment. Shortly thereafter she contracted a cryptococcal meningitis, a result of her HIV infection. Completely enfeebled she died on 15 December 2007. Her last wish was to see Ndumie again.
Shortly after Nomsa’s death Ndumie founded the group ‘Lulekisizwe’ – named after the two dead women she had cared for so much. The organisation has neither a space nor a budget. Ndumie’s shack is both office and a place to spend the night. At most a few private donations are made into the accounts of Lulekisizwe, just enough to pay for a few photocopies. Ndumie’s pride and joy is a lesbian football team with which she wants to strengthen the sense of community among the lesbians in Guguletu.
Donations to Lulekisizwe:
Account Name: Luleki Sizwe LBT Women’s Project
Business transaction account 071362940
Branch code 024909
Swift code SBZA ZA JJ STANDARD BANK